Man sentenced to 10 years for racially motivated assaults

October 28, 2020 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Biddeford man convicted of violating a federal hate crime law with a pair of assaults on Black men was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Tuesday.

Maurice Diggins, 36, was charged with two hate crime counts and one count of conspiracy in connection to attacks that prosecutors described as unprovoked assaults on Black men in Portland and in Biddeford in April 2018.

Diggins, who’s white, was convicted after a trial by an all-white jury. His nephew, also charged in the attacks, pleaded guilty under an agreement with prosecutors and is awaiting sentencing.

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The two cases were the first federal prosecutions in Maine since the government adopted a new hate crime law in 2009.

One of the attackers came up behind the victims, both of whom are Black, and punched them so hard they suffered broken jaws. Both victims had their jaws wired shut for weeks as part of their recovery.

“In addition to doing grievous harm to individuals, hate crimes engender fear in communities,” said U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank. “Violence has no place in Maine, and that is especially true of violence that is motivated by hate.”

In court, Diggins apologized to the victims and said he wants to cover up his racist tattoos, the Portland Press Herald reported.

“No one should have to live in constant fear,” he said. “This is 2020 in America. Different is great. I truly am sorry, and I want you to know that this has opened my eyes. This will never happen again.”

After he was arrested, Diggins invoked the name of the state’s former governor, Republican Paul LePage, in a phone call with his wife in which he predicted he wouldn’t be convicted in the nation’s whitest state.

He also paraphrased LePage’s 2016 remarks about out-of-state drug traffickers “impregnating our women and selling our kids drugs.” LePage called comments from the phone call “vile” and “repugnant.”